How to pronounce place names with ‘ham’ in them.
A group of names that often cause pronunciation errors are those containing the ending ‘ham’. Often the error is caused by pronouncing and/or mis-pronouncing the ‘h’. There is a very simple rule for this:
- If ‘ham’ is contained within the word itself, do not pronounce the ‘h’, EG ‘Buckingham’ – /ˈbʌkɪŋəm/
- If ‘ham’ is a separate word, we must pronounce the ‘h’, EG ‘West Ham’ – /ˈwest ˈhæm/
The most mispronounced ‘ham’ word.
‘Tottenham’ of course. Following the rule above, we do not pronounce the /h/. More confusion occurs here, however, with the silent ‘e’ in the middle, and the second ‘t’ becoming a glottal stop /ʔ/. So ‘Tottenham’ is actually pronounced /ˈtɒʔnəm/ – it is a lot more simple than it appears.
A list of place names with ‘ham’ phonetically transcribed.
Tottenham – /ˈtɒʔnəm/Rotherham – /ˈrɒðərəm/Nottingham – /ˈnɒtɪŋəm/Birmingham – /ˈbɜ:mɪŋəm/Gillingham (Kent) – /ˈdʒɪlɪŋəm/Cheltenham – /ˈtʃelʔnəm/Buckingham – /ˈbʌkɪŋəm/Durham – /ˈdʌrəm/
NOTE – Names ending ‘sham’ will be pronounced /ʃəm/:
Lewisham – /lu:wɪʃəm/Evesham – /ˈi:vʃəm/
This article uses IPA (phonetic) symbols – you can learn them in the free Pronunciation Studio Starter Pack containing pronunciation notes and diagrams for each sound with audio, and an English IPA chart.